Computer Science Imaging Helps Researcher Build Virtual Brain
Gavriil Tsechpenakis, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Computer Science, School of Science
Researchers at the School of Science welcome the opportunity to pave new ground in their field and discover the unknown—even if that challenge involves answering age-old questions that have perplexed generations of scientists before them. Gavriil Tsechpenakis, for example, sees nothing daunting about using image modeling to essentially build a model brain.
Tsechpenakis, an associate professor of computer science, specializes in computer vision and biomedical imaging: the use of computational processes to help a computer to be able to “see” and analyze images. This field has multiple applications in health and life sciences, including DNA analysis and understanding disease and the structure of cell development and transformation.
Using complex algorithms and theories, scientists like Tscechpenakis are beginning to understand how cells communicate with one another and how to leverage that data.
“Your brain has many circuitries and literally billions of neurons,” said Tsechpenakis. “Our goal is to understand the very simple functions of a single neuron and how it reacts in certain environments. We want to see how it develops and how the synapses are formed or lost.”
Understanding neuron circuitries allows researchers to analyze normal brain development, the effects of drugs and complex injuries such as those to the spinal cord.
“We want to be able to navigate a living brain in virtual reality,” Tsechpenakis said.
His work extends beyond bioimaging and into data segmentation, pattern recognition and human-motion analysis. In the classroom, he teaches his students the potential real-life applications of using image processing to analyze data.
“I bring my research experience to the classroom,” said Tsechpenakis, who earned his Ph.D. from the Technical University of Athens, Greece. “We don’t use only a single textbook, and we don’t talk about things people did 20 years ago. Everything we cover has taken place in the last five years.”
Since joining the Department of Computer and Information Science (CIS) faculty in 2008 from the University of Miami, Tsechpenakis said he has been impressed with the caliber and talent of students and faculty. He previously served as a research fellow at Rutgers University. His current research allows him to mentor graduate, undergraduate and high school students.
“The atmosphere, the flexibility and the freedom here helped to convince me IUPUI was the right place for me,” he said. “I don’t think I could have the time to do quality research if my department was a mainstream, average department in the field.”
Tsechpenakis said bioimaging is one of the strongest areas on the IUPUI campus, due in part to the collaborative research opportunities available with the IU School of Medicine. CIS also has benefitted by recruiting faculty who are strong both in research and teaching.
“We are a small department but have unique expertise in four major reseach areas. This is the ideal environment for both faculty and students,” he said.